A Year in Review: Top Cards of 2013

cvhWell, fellow Kaijudo duelists, we've made it.  2013, the first year that Kaijudo has been around from start to finish, is coming to a close.  It's been quite the year, starting with the initial announcements of organized play and Kaijudo Master Challenges.  It's hard to believe that in one short year, we've come from that announcement to having two incredibly successful Championship events with future KMC seasons to look forward to.  The game has grown, competition has been fierce, and new sets have been released which allowed the metagame to stay very diverse throughout.  With each of these set releases, deadly new cards were released and the meta was defined for weeks and months at a time.  I can't think of a better way to wrap up 2013 than by discussing some of the most important, commonly played, and generally insane cards that have been released during the year.  Since Kaijudo is a relatively new game, this list will be created using cards from a majority of the sets currently released, but this ought to be a fun trend to do in future years of Kaijudo's successful future.  So, without any further ado, here are my picks for the top ten cards of 2013!

Honorable Mention: [ccProd]Blinder Beetle Prime[/ccProd]

(I wrote this one up before I made the last-minute decision to include Bottle of Wishes on this list, and I felt that Prime should still be included since it is in my top ten list of currently legal cards from 2013.)

This card is definitely the least insane of any card on this list, but I felt that it needed to be mentioned because of its versatility and inclusion in several of the top decks since its release in September.  [ccProd]Blinder Beetle Prime[/ccProd] evolves off the easiest race to evolve from in Light: Enforcers.  This allows it to be an automatic inclusion in the current most potent Rush deck, Mono Light, and its utility doesn't end there.  Prime found a lot of play in various tempo strategies in the last few months, from being a tech choice in the ever-popular LWD Tempo to help combat the mirror to reaching second place at the Winter Championship in LWN Enforcer Tempo.  This deck, piloted by my teammate Carl Miciotto, really put [ccProd]Blinder Beetle Prime[/ccProd] on the map, as it was included at a full three copies.

Prime's success, like many cards on this list, comes from its versatility.  At times, the decks Prime is generally seen in want to be totally aggressive, and that's something the card is very capable of, since it can single-handedly tap two creatures to allow your field to bypass blockers.  At other times, Prime can be one of the best defensive cards to re-gain control of the battle zone.  It can tap something like [ccProd]Herald of Infernus[/ccProd], attack over it, and tap another creature like Nix to be banished by one of your other, smaller creatures.  With such a relevant race and low cost, I expect this card to be around for a long time in top-tier decks.

10. [ccProd]Eternal Haven[/ccProd]

While I'm sure many people would argue that Haven should be higher on my list, I do have my reasons for placing the card at number ten.  It's an extremely "greedy" card in my opinion, mostly found in control decks that want to go over the top and put ridiculous things on the board.  I group these decks together with the affectionate nickname "Pile Control" because they often seem to be a pile of good cards looking to drop the biggest thing last.  That said, I have to sing Haven's praises for a little bit.  Though I don't personally care for a lot of the deck-building philosophies that go into building Pile Control, [ccProd]Eternal Haven[/ccProd] decks have surfaced and succeeded because it truly is the most insurmountable card in the game once it hits the board.  The best defense against the card is a good offense, since tempo 250px-Herald_of_Infernus_(6DSI)decks can hopefully win long before Haven is dropped (or at least make summoning Eternal Haven a sub-optimal play), but in many situations, Eternal Haven just signals the end of the game.  It's giant, it's hexproof, it draws more cards and summons additional creatures, and it's a triple breaking blocker.  What more could you ask for in a finisher?

9. [ccProd]Herald of Infernus[/ccProd]

Dragonstrike Infernus was the first set released in 2013, and it impacted the metagame more than any set to date.  DSI gave us all the tools we needed for a competitive Dragon deck, and while a few cool new toys have been released for the archetype since then, the core of the deck still comes from that set.  Robby Stewart's Dragons got second at the Summer Championship, and Bobby Brake used them to win the Winter Championship.  The fact that these cards could survive the test of time and all these metagame changes to remain a consistently good choice speaks to the power of those cards.

At the heart of any current, truly competitive Dragon deck is [ccProd]Herald of Infernus[/ccProd].  Without this one card, Dragons would have almost no game against simple Rush strategies and struggle more against Tempo decks.  As soon as Herald hits the battle zone, however, the game is immediately affected.  Players can't just swing at shields without a care in the world anymore.  Even if they stop, tap abilities like [ccProd]Lyra, the Blazing Sun[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Piercing Judgment[/ccProd] are still a factor.  Herald is generally coupled with [ccProd]Jump Jets[/ccProd] nowadays to take advantage of an unsuspecting battle zone full of tapped creatures.  While it's possible to play around [ccProd]Herald of Infernus[/ccProd] effectively (in some decks more than others), the fact that it often ends the game as soon as its effect goes off basically demands its inclusion on this list.

8. [ccProd]Queen Kalima[/ccProd]

At the opposite end of the spectrum from my number ten pick, we have [ccProd]Queen Kalima[/ccProd] coming in at number eight!  I, along with many others, doubted the potential of this card at first, being fooled by the allure of Eternal Haven's hexproof ability.  Eventually, though, successful Queen Kalima decks surfaced, with fellow ARG writer Mark Woodin putting the card in the spotlight with a second place finish at his KMC.  Since then, the deck has been a mainstay in the competitive circuit, and four members of my team, including myself, flocked to variants of it for the Winter Championship.  Part of the deck's success is owed to Darkness being a great control civilization in general, but Kalima itself is an incredible finisher for the deck.  Nowadays, most Kalima Control builds have a few 250px-Queen_Kalima_(9SHA)cards that aren't at least part Darkness, but in the more well-constructed builds, the removal effect should still hit two creatures more often than not.  That can be huge if you've been controlling the board up to that point, and then Kalima turns into a [ccProd]Dark Return[/ccProd] on triple-breaking legs.  Few cards would make me want to run a deck that relies on making it to a level 10 creature game after game in a championship setting, but [ccProd]Queen Kalima[/ccProd] did it for me.

7. [ccProd]Reverberate[/ccProd]

[ccProd]Reverberate[/ccProd] is quickly becoming one of the most feared cards to come out of Invasion Earth.  Many players still have nightmares from having [ccProd]King Tritonus[/ccProd] generate +5s across the table before Tritonus was more or less phased out by tempo strategies.  Now, Reverberate lets a ton of different decks get that same advantage on turn six.  This card was the sole reason I included Water in my Kalima Control deck for the Championship, and the copy Bobby Brake included in his LWDF Dragon deck was a key factor that led to him defeating me in the swiss rounds.  Matchups involving Dragon and Control decks can easily be decided by whoever gets [ccProd]Reverberate[/ccProd] off at the right time.  For that reason, the card can be incredibly frustrating in a topdeck war, and only truly suffers against Rush and Tempo decks.  This is the newest card I included in this top ten list, but I can't see it declining in popularity any time soon; a +5 so early has the potential to take too many opponents right out of the game.

6. [ccProd]Squillace Scourge[/ccProd]

This card was a favorite of mine when it was released, and it's still a favorite of mine today.  I've written about this card numerous times before in various articles.  I think it's very deserving of a spot in the top ten because it's the card that most says, "Hey, the game's over now."    Cassiopeia Starborn also has this potential, but Squillace takes away the opponent's hand, doesn't let them respond with Fast Attackers or Evolutions for a counter-push, and even had sweet synergy with [ccProd]King Coral[/ccProd] in Bobby Brake's Summer Championship Leviathan Control.  It also firmly dictates the results of Haven Control mirror matches and s a great answer to decks that like to pack on the high-level creatures.  Even LWD tempo can run it!  Simply put, it just has one of the most powerful effects ever printed on a Kaijudo card.

5. [ccProd]Bottle of Wishes[/ccProd]

Oh, yes - the first retired card in Kaijudo is indeed on this list.  I originally didn't include it because I thought, "Hey, if people can no longer run it in sanctioned tournaments, what's the point?"  Then I realized that in a list of the most impactful cards of the year it would be downright silly to not include the most talked about card in Kaijudo.

While I believe from a competitive standpoint that there were "better" cards released this year (which is why Bottle sits comfortably at number five on my list), there's no denying that it had a bigger effect on the community than any other.  Combined with all the powerful dragons from Dragonstrike Infernus, it helped create a set that was probably just too powerful for its own good.  Newer players might never bottle of wisheshave played a game where a turn two [ccProd]Eternal Haven[/ccProd] hit the battle zone, and scenarios like that are the reason so many people wanted it gone.  In some ways, it was a beautiful thing to watch, much like a star exploding.  For the person sitting across from it, it often felt as powerful, too.

Another reason [ccProd]Bottle of Wishes[/ccProd] is so important and saw so much play was that it was the first taste of Shield Blast creatures Kaijudo got.  Now, cards like [ccProd]Oathsworn Call[/ccProd] do similar things, and in the future, actual Shield Blast creatures are sure to make a big splash.  None of them can quite replicate what Bottle did, however, and that's the reason it gets a spot on both my list and the current "retired" list.

4. [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd]

For a time, it seemed like [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd] was played in everything.  Today, with a larger card pool, things don't seem quite that extreme, but [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd] remains one of the most commonly-played cards from the Light civilization.  The lowest-level card on this list, it sets the bar for level four creatures extraordinarily high.  With a very solid power level, a psuedo-hexproof ability, and the ability to draw cards off of opponent's spells, it has a role in just about every type of deck.  It's still heavily used in Rush, Tempo, Dragons, and Control variants of all kinds.  It's a great answer to control decks because it fits well into the curve of Rush and Tempo decks and refuels the hand, and it's a great card to fight aggressive decks because it's almost impossible to remove, allowing you to attack over your opponent's smaller creatures.  Laws definitely dictates the way people play the game in a way few cards can do, on top of being very easy to fit in such a wide variety of decks, making it one of the top cards of the year.

3. [ccProd]Lyra, the Blazing Sun[/ccProd]

Ah, we're getting into more of the reasons Dragonstrike Infernus is one of the most sought-after sets!  It's easy to forget about Lyra because at this point, I think everyone is used to playing against it, but it's definitely one of the best cards in the game.  There was really no question in anyone's mind when DSI first came out that Lyra and Andromeda were two of the most powerful cards in the set, and they really are the reason the meta shifted so drastically.  Not only do they continue to form the backbone for nearly every competitive dragon deck, they have each been seen in great numbers in just about every control deck since DSI.  Lyra is even a core component of almost all LWD and LWN tempo decks.

What makes Lyra so great for control or Dragons is its ability to let the player get to the late game.  It comes down at the right time (possibly even earlier with Fire Birds or ramp), locks down anything, and can hold its own in battle with a solid 6000 power.  It has added utility in Dragons since it's one of the best follow-ups in existence for [ccProd]Herald of Infernus[/ccProd].  In tempo, Lyra shines because it can put pressure on an opponent just as easily as it can help you stall.  It can let your creatures bypass a blocker or freeze one of your opponent's larger creatures so it can't revenge kill your guys after they attack, and then it can swing in itself with Double Breaker if your opponent doesn't have an immediate answer.  There's really only one other card in a tempo deck that can consistently put more pressure on a player, but Lyra has too many things going for it to not include it on this list.  With one of the best effects in the game, the ability to fit 250px-Andromeda_of_the_Citadel_(6DSI)into the archetype with the most support (dragons), Double Breaker, and 6000 power, no one should expect Lyra to go anywhere any time soon.

2. [ccProd]Andromeda of the Citadel[/ccProd]

This card completely changed Kaijudo.  For the last nine or so months, it has been by far the best card for stabilization.  As soon as it was released, it was included in threes in every control and Dragon deck of the time, causing the aggressive decks to be completely phased out, as they were lackluster in comparison.  Nowadays, Andromeda is still a constant fear.  There are more answers to the card, making aggression playable in numerous forms, but every deck that wants to live into the late game could benefit a lot from Andromeda.  It was the first non-Darkness card I included in Kalima control.  Though I was wary at the time of getting less hits with Kalima's effect, Andromeda's ability to stabilize was just too important.

Besides the fact that getting two extra shields is great, Awe Strike is a ridiculous effect.  Let's say you're against a field of single breakers, purely for this example; if you go back up to two shields after being at zero, your opponent suddenly needs five creatures on board to successfully break both of the shields and attack for game.  That isn't even counting the very real potential of Shield Blasts.  As soon as multiple Andromedas hit the battle zone, most aggressive players know the game is quickly becoming un-winnable unless they have all the answers and mana.  Though Andromeda isn't always the finisher you want to be dropping against a control deck, it matters so much in relation to aggressive strategies that it has to be near the top of this list.  Just think of how much would be different in a world without Andromeda.  I shudder to think of the day when something comes along that can truly replace it in a lot of these decks - that card would have to be absolutely crazy.  As it stands, Andromeda is one of the most important cards in the game and is probably going to stay that way for a long time.

1. [ccProd]General Finbarr[/ccProd]

"Can I Finborrow a couple Generals?" -Dante Johnson

I wrote an article about how good this card was before I even fully knew how good the card really is.  THAT'S how good [ccProd]General250px-General_Finbarr_(7CLA) Finbarr[/ccProd] is.

When it comes to cards that really impacted the game of Kaijudo this year, it took a lot to surpass what Andromeda did to the metagame.  [ccProd]General Finbarr[/ccProd] is the one card that I think really lived up to that high bar set by Andromeda.  After the DSI cards took aggression out of the equation, Finbarr breathed new life into tempo.  Because of Finbarr's existence, Megabugs, LWD Tempo, Enforcer Tempo, and Blurple all became viable decks again.  It is by far the best play for a tempo deck to have on turn six with any sort of board presence, and also my current least favorite card to have played on me in the game.  [ccProd]Keeper of Laws[/ccProd] used to have that title, but Finbarr is just too crazy.  It bounces a creature, allowing for huge shifts in momentum and the ability to get rid of Andromeda, and then turns everything into an [ccProd]Aqua Seneschal[/ccProd].  Not only does your opponent now have to deal with your whole board, you probably have a full hand of cards that threaten to apply more pressure.  Because of this, scenarios involving multiple Finbarrs are all too common and cause things to get out of hand very quickly.

The insanity that [ccProd]General Finbarr[/ccProd] brings to the table has been recognized by other decks as well.  The vast majority of Dragon decks have taken to running three copies of the card, as getting aggressive with Fire Birds and Keeper of Laws can be an excellent line of play against control decks if you're able to draw off of them.  Defensively, it can bounce a creature just as well as [ccProd]Rusalka, Aqua Chaser[/ccProd], and then threaten to draw cards later in the game.  This card punishes players extremely hard for playing creatures that don't have value as soon as they hit the battle zone, and while Andromeda certainly comes close, no other card currently affects the game of Kaijudo so much in my opinion.

There were other cards I would have liked to include like Piercing Judgment, Wildstrider Ramnoth, Cassiopeia Starborn, and Mesmerize but while those cards are great, I think I picked the cards that have done the most to influence the game of Kaijudo.  Obviously there are other opinions out there, and I'd love to hear yours in the comments whether you agree or disagree with my choices!  It's been a great year for the game, and I can't wait to see what the next year will bring us in terms of specific cards, events, and more.  I hope you enjoyed, and until next week, Play Hard or Go Home!